Rethinking the Future of Education

Alpha’s own Chuck Dardas offers insights on the importance of working to learn

More than 300 people came together on Thursday, February 7 for the Schoolcraft College Foundation’s event centered around the topic of rethinking the future of education and work in the state of Michigan. Presented by “acclaimed futurist” Heather McGowan, the event featured a panel of industry professionals.

Our very own CEO, Chuck Dardas, was joined by the following panelists: Michael Davenport, CEO of Trilology Security Inc., Robert Leadley, Dean of Occupational Programs and Economic Development at Schoolcraft College, and Kimberly Keaton Williams, the Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Development at McLaren Health Care.

With a focus on working to learn instead of learning to work, Chuck was chosen to be on the panel because of Alpha’s work within the community such as workforce development with local youth.

Hundreds of people were in attendance as the panel, which was moderated by Eaton Cummings President Kathleen Guy, discussed and contributed to the ongoing efforts of Schoolcraft College to explore the various strategies and partnerships needed to address the needs of the workforce development.

The event opened up with a presentation by McGowan. Throughout her presentation, McGowan stressed the importance of learning. The future of work, she explained, is centered around learning and adapting. In addition, the future of work is not about technology skills transfer, but rather learning to continuously learn; learning is valued more than knowing.

Finally, McGowan discussed the issue of overlooking humans in the workforce. Humans are underrated, she explained. Identity, mindset and enablers should always come before skill sets. Not negating one’s skill sets, McGowan believes the human aspect should not be discounted.

Following McGowan’s presentation, the panelists took to the stage to begin the audience driven discussion.

Chuck remarked first as he discussed what aspects of McGowan’s presentation resonated with him. “I think it’s the entrepreneurial spirit and also the motivation of employees versus fixed learning,” he said. “I think the key message is that you have to encourage people to expand their horizons and that this is a continuous journey.”

In addition, Chuck agreed with McGowan that one’s grades in school do not and should not define their career. This further lends itself to the topic of working to learn as opposed to learning to work.

Looking to the future, an audience asked the panel what they feel most optimistic about when it comes to the future of the workforce and education.

McGowan, who joined the initial panelists, focused on current happenings. “I think I’m most optimistic about what we’ve done lately,” she said. “What’s often missed, particularly in the United States, is how many strides we’ve made. In my lifetime, we have lifted a billion people out of poverty, we’ve dramatically increased literacy…if we can do that, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

The key, McGowan said, in keeping this progress going lies in the way we think. “We must shift our mindset and shift the way we think about education.”

On par with the topic of education, the panelists discussed how best to “coach” children or students who may be struggling in school.

Speaking from personal experience in which she switched from engineering to business, Williams stresses that parents should encourage their children to do what they love and not what will make them money. “Do what you love and the money will come,” she said. Your time is better spent focusing on your strengths, Williams explained.

Addressing skilled trades, Chuck commended local community colleges such as Schoolcraft for their work with filling the gaps.

“It’s the collaboration between the local schools, community colleges and the business community that makes it possible,” Chuck explained. “I think it’s really important that we are friends and we know each other and what our capabilities are.”

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